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Third wave feminism is often used to explain contemporary feminism versions that have evolved over the last few decades. The actual definition is often contested. Nevertheless, Johnson (9) notes that the notion informs many feminist and anti-feminist theories and practices coming up in the twenty-first century.
Meanwhile, Merskin (435) confirms that third wave of feminism focuses on the expression of women to take advantage of the gains made by initial feminism’s goals.
However, the main idea is to show that women are yet to achieve the utopian conditions for equality as they would wish. For example, Halligan (4) shows that women have been constantly and explicitly informed to improve their appearance such that they are able to appear as non-ugly.
Incidentally, such progress makes the so called ugly so rare such that it is also becoming an appearance worth cherishing contrary to decades ago when the same image represented the oppressed women. The utopian reference is used here because women already have the universal equality rights they would
Besides, they are already receiving many assistance programs to allow them to effectively participate in economic activities. This essay seeks to show that the realization of third-wave feminism ideals does not lead to equality as many of its constituent movements will claim. Instead, the third-wave feminism fights for superiority.
Third-wave feminism and equality
Women are joining college and university programs at any given time in North America and Europe. It is a fact that many of them are shying away from STEM subjects. Unfortunately, not having enough women taking these subjects and their related courses will lead to fewer women in strictly STEM-related careers (Smitch 993).
The study by Smitch (993) shows that after three decades of several initiatives that aimed to increase the participation of women in STEM subjects, there was still a very minimal noticeable impact. Recruitment data and gendered patterns persist in the subject areas closely related to STEM.
Third wave feminists may seek to show that it is the fault of those supporting a patriarchal system, but the fault is in the biology of men and women. Men prefer different things in life than women and will continually risk or pick choices related to their preference, as women do the same.
Seeking equality, therefore, requires that the society artificially restricts the intensity of tasks that men are good at as a way of accommodating women. For example, instead of having STEM subjects as they are, third wave feminist ideas should have it that women get easier tests to do to qualify as men. Unfortunately, it jeopardizes the quality of graduates that are expected out of the study or training programs. Moreover, it does not do well for the overall progress of society.
According to Kahn (260) today’s feminists want to show that gender differences are not due to natural or biological differences. They are determined to demonstrate that these differences arise due to social construction. They also seek to show the differences as man-made conditions. Unfortunately, the absolute idea of third-wave feminism does not solve a problem, but creates a new problem.
Instead of equipping women with the skills and resources to make them equal to men, the wave forces men to step aside and let women have their way. In a fair society, stepping aside metaphorically and withdrawing personal or group interest for the sake of equality can be noble, but it only leads to reverse inequality when the concept is taken too far.
Thus, women dominating the society will not make society just as it is to have men dominate. Nevertheless, one must realize that positions, jobs, opportunities, and resources sometimes favor only one candidate at a time. In any case, such as candidate can be a woman or a man. Therefore, statistics relating to the high number of men in a particular social category, such as high earners in a given career, must be examined contextually.
The sentiments represented above were captured by Schacht and Ewing (7), who showed that categorical definition of men as the enemy caused divisions between feminists. The authors noted that most women of color and women in third world countries saw the feminist agenda as a rejection of men, which was the domain of priviledged white women in the West. The main reason for their response was that they together with men in their countries faced all kinds of oppressions, in addition to sexism.
Racial and gender representation and third wave feminism ideals
Another issue that seems to escape the third wave feminists is the general changes in society, including the definitions of gender. Third wave feminism calls for the integration of equality and female empowerment in all fibers of a person’s life.
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Unfortunately, equality and female empowerment may sometimes be antagonistic as illustrated above. Empowering women may, in some cases, cause inequality. Thus, third-wave feminism is flawed from a fundamental perspective.
One strategy that third wave feminism has supported is the abolishment of gender stereotypes and gender roles. The abolishment helps to deal with the oppression of genders, particularly the marginalized communities. The strategy is effective in handling problems that victims of gender and minority status face.
However, beyond the noble reasons, there are problems that arise with the elimination of gender role expectations. It becomes difficult to justify a fight against male dominance when one does not wish to follow a stereotyped male gender definition in society at the same time. The entry of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transsexual persons into the gender debate has also made the campaign for third wave feminism difficult to pursue objectively.
One may opt to pursue LGBT issues, as they are valid in their right, without attaching them to the third wave feminism ideas. In fact, feminism by its definition is about the expression and the rights of women. Thus, it is difficult to include the interests of transsexuals into the arguments without running into definition or policy implementation problems.
Today, there are post-racial and post-feminist ideologies that the third wave feminist message does not cover appropriately. For example, in the new millennium United States, race and gender are popularly constructed from the society’s interaction with legislation and technology (Joseph 237). The components are considered personal, individual, and mutable traits.
They are no longer treated as structural, institutional, and historical forces. One reason for this outcome is the successful campaigns by third wave feminism against gender and racial stereotyping. Unfortunately, the medium that has become popular for communicating the ideals of third wave feminism are also prone to heavy scripting that may not represent reality, but merely seeks to shape it to fit a single group’s version of perfectness.
The article by Joseph (238-241) shows that race and gender can be used as popularity tools for attaining social and commercial success in public ventures. On the other hand, they are used as defensive elements when reacting to criticism from the same society where a person has claimed fame. Third wave feminism follows the idea that second wave feminism eradicated sexism to a point that it no longer exists (Joseph 238).
Thus, only patriarchy and gender discrimination remain as issues of focus. The third wave feminism has been focusing on deconstructing gender roles, behaviors, performances, and ideals. Hegemonic ideologies, on the contrary, are spread through the popular culture.
The movie Kinky Boots seeks to present the identity of different gender roles through one character’s expression (par. 2). Acting as both male and female is not uncommon, but in this movie, it represents an idea that third-wave feminists hold. They assume that it is possible for women to behave like men and for men to behave like women (Jarrold par. 2). The problem with this assumption is that succumbs to stereotyping that the movement seeks to banish.
Feminists can point out that a popular culture reflects and produces ideologies that lead to racialized and gendered differences. Much emphasis is on the differences produced, rather than their meaning and reasons for existence. There is also the indication that racial and gender differences exist in parenting, life expectancy, level of education, and income levels. This is not a disputable fact.
Nevertheless, the racial and gender concerns are swept under the carpet by the pop culture. The pop culture follows the ideological function of post-race and post-feminism or third-wave feminism. As the Joseph (240) article on a popular television reality show “America’s Next Top Model” shows, women have become victims of popularized versions of minority group identities that are not enshrined by a patriarchy, but by fellow women seeking to promote third-wave feminist ideas of authentic representation of race and gender.
The show tried to promote a predefined outlook of races and forces contestants to behave as instructed or risk elimination. This example highlights a problem with third-wave feminism, which this paper seeks to use as an argument against its ideals. Third-wave feminism has become obsessed with the presentation of ideals that fit a particular script that is not inclusive of everyone’s opinion.
Thus, many women who are not comfortable in the predetermined ways of expression in society end up in a disadvantaged position. The individuals enter into a society that claims not to recognize their female gender or minority race, but seeks to influence their behavior towards ideal feminine expressions to show empowerment.
Feminism has enjoyed the success of its agenda of removing hierarchical conditions that support men’s leadership in many social features, such as the family. The emergence of LGBT issues has helped to advance the agenda, with the target being the removal of the ability of straight men to treat women in a certain way (Oaks 194).
For example, lesbianism is celebrated for its presentation of the idea that a woman does not need or desire men. The argument should have extended to show that the desire for men is replaced by the desire for women in this case. Thus, the desire is still there. The ban on gay marriage that existed in the United States, until recently, was seen as a desire to shore up an institution that perpetuated traditional sex roles, where males were superior to females.
The argument of this paper against the presentation of third wave feminists as discussed above is that the idea that a woman who subordinates her career ambitions to a man before reentering the workforce is facing extended odds is wrong.
The same woman will still face the same odds if she subordinates her career ambitions to a woman partner. Similarly, if a gay man does the same, he will face very long odds for competing for the best jobs. The issue is not that women are suffering because they let men have their way.
Rather, it is the reality of raising children in a commercialized society. Here, success is measured using career achievement (Okian and Williams 119). The loss of career advancement is only highlighted as a reason for male dominance because it has been set up by popular culture as a measure of success. If the same culture also highlighted raising children as the epitome of social success, then the same argument would not carry weight.
Third-wave feminism will continue to face the trouble of identity as long as it pursues opposing ideologies. This paper, therefore, argues that the wave should not be allowed to be the representative of women’s concerns in society. The argument is based on the opinions and research evidence of other scholars of the subject, such as Munford (123).
The third wave seeks to promote the full expression of women using the ideal girl image. The acknowledgment of women or girls as an identity presents an existing or a proposed stereotyped identity that will not fit all girls or women in the society.
On the other hand, focusing on genderless notions eradicates the identity that third-wave feminism would like to use. In fact, the figure of the girl power as presented by third-wave feminism consciousness is often at odds with the ordinary representation of women’s lives (Munford 123).
Third-wave feminism existing in different ways and pro-life feminists is one example. The existence of many versions comes as new issues are put under the feminism banner. The issues include the violence and oppression against people of color, LGBT individuals, and persons with disabilities, among others.
Arguments are also based on human rights and other forms of social morality that do not link to the traditional concept of hierarchy, such as theology. Unfortunately, saying that emerging feminist organizations and groups welcome all people seeking to do right in social justice makes these groups try to expand an equality campaign beyond its reasonable benefits (Oaks 193-194).
Promoting equality in all spheres of life and welcoming all people, regardless of their beliefs, will destroy individualism and individual expression for accepted norms. Eventually, a new minority of oppressed people who, for various reasons, are not able to abide by the third-wave feminist expectation of gender and race behaviors will be created.
In the end, third-wave feminism has succeeded in promoting its agenda. However, after successfully riding on the ideals of second wave feminism, its new agendas are questionable. The agendas represent the emancipation of women, but they use methods that do not leave the society equal.
In many cases, the realization of third-wave feminism ideals for both men and women leads to the curtailment of freedoms and the suppression of social classes or individual expressions to conform to specified ideas of gender and race expression. The inclusion of LGBT oppression agenda as part of third wave feminism ideals for social justice also complicates the matter.
The problem with the presentation of third wave feminism is that it tends to ignore any conflicting fact about equality or any causal factor for inequality in race and gender, which are not male hegemony oriented. Thus, the underlying goal for third wave feminism is to become superior to existing notions of patriarchy, irrespective of the inequality consequences.
Johnson, Merri Lisa. Third Wave Feminism and Television: Jane Puts It in a Box. London: I.B. Tauris, 2007. Print.
Joseph, Ralinal. “”Tyra Banks Is Fat”: Reading (Post -) Racism and (Post -) Feminism in the New Millenium.” Critical Studies in Media Communications 26.3 (2009): 237-254. Print.
Kinky Boots. Dir. Julian Jarrold. 2005. Film.
Munford, Rebecca. Busting the 3rd Wave: Barbies, Blowjobs, and Girlie Feminism. New York: I.B. Tauris, 2009. Print.
Oaks, Laura. “What Are Pro-Life Feminists Doing on Campus?” NWSA Journal 21.1 (2009): 178-203. Print.
Okian, Susan Moller, and Joan Williams. “Gendered-Structured Work and Families are Unjust to Women.” In Nussbaum C. Martha, Sex and Social Justice, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999. 118-124. Print.
Smitch, Emma. “Women into Science and Engineering? Gendered Participation in Higher Education STEM Subjects.” British Educational Research Journal 37.6 (2011): 993-1014. Print.